Now that LeBron James has returned to Cleveland, the Miami Heat are fighting to be a contender in the Eastern conference. Miami has signed former all-star Luol Deng to a two year $20 million contract.
The Heat have also received commitments from many players on their roster last season: Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers, Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem.
With that core the Heat would do well to make it to the Eastern conference finals. Pat Riley, Miami heat president of basketball operations and all-time great executive, is not resting on the possibility of making it to the eastern conference finals though. Riley is committed to pursuing another NBA championship.
To be a championship contending team the Heat have to add a few skilled free agents, but with so much to finagle in between the salary cap lines, the Heat are facing an uphill climb. In a previous article, detailing the Heat’s salary cap situation, I outline how the Heat could sign all of the previously mentioned players and still maintain over $10 million in salary cap space.
Monroe an unrealistic target
One name commonly associated with the Heat is Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe. Monroe is a restricted free agent, meaning any offer to the player may be met by the Pistons. The Pistons have offered Monroe a five year $60 million contract (about $12m annually). With the signing of Luol Deng for $10 million a year, the chances of signing any free agent for more than $10 million annually is slim to none. The Heat may be in the situation to offer Monroe $13 million, but this would require Dwyane Wade take a steeper pay cut. A $13 million annual salary is also something the Pistons would match.
Luckily for the Heat there are plenty of skilled players left in free agency. My favorite free agent target is guard Lance Stephenson. Stephenson is a bit volatile, but valuable sixth man/ Wade backup. Stephenson is young, only twenty-three years old. And he can develop into a star player under the tutelage of Wade, Riley and Spoelstra. When the transformative 2016 NBA free agency comes around having young talent on the roster will be a hot commodity. Stephenson rejected a five year $44 million contract from the Indiana Pacers at the start of free agency. Perhaps the Miami Heat offer Stephenson a three quarter million dollar raise at five years $47.5 million contract.
Trouble means cheap
Two other troubled big men are still looking for a 2014-2015 NBA home: Emeka Okafor and Andray Blatche.
Both Blatche and Okafor would be slightly over paid with a $9 million annual contract. Emeka Okafor did not play last season due to injury which is driving down his value. Andray Blatche has had numerous off the court issues, but his on court contributions are well documented.
If the Heat sign Okafor it would be wise to sign a short two year $18 million deal. If the Heat sign Blatche the safe bet would be to sign a longer term, but flexible team option focused contract.
If the big talents are gone, Chris Humphries and Evan Turner are great additions. Both forwards are proven contributors, Humphries will likely sign a $4 million annual contract and Turner is looking for $6 million. If any of the previously mentioned marquee free agents sign in the $9 million or less range the Heat may be able to pursue Chris Humphpries too.